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Los Angeles Lakers Preview
A win Monday against Utah at The Arena near Orlando would clinch the top playoff seed in the West for the Lakers (50-15). LA has split games so far in the bubble, edging the Clippers 103-101 on Thursday before falling 107-92 to the Raptors on Saturday.
The Lakers began the eight-game stretch in Florida with the hardest schedule among the Western teams, with a .625 cumulative winning percentage among their opponents. The Lakers won both earlier games against Utah this season — 95-86 at home on Oct. 25 and 121-96 in Salt Lake City on Dec. 4 — and have a chance to sweep the season series from the Jazz for the first time since 1986.
The Lakers have shot just 37.2 percent in the bubble, with LeBron James going 13-for-34 (38.2 percent) and Anthony Davis 10-for-26 (38.5 percent). Kyle Kuzma has come off the bench to score 16 points in each game.
Utah Jazz Preview
The Jazz (42-24) would have opened the Western playoffs as the No. 4 seed had the postseason begun Sunday. Like the Lakers, Utah has won a close one in the bubble (106-104 over the Pelicans) and lost a blowout (110-94 to the Thunder).
The Jazz have gone just 16-for-65 on 3-pointers (24.6 percent) since the restart, with star guards Donovan Mitchell (2-for-8) and Mike Conley (3-for-10) both struggling. Mitchell has averaged 16.5 points in the two games, Conley 16.0. Former Laker Jordan Clarkson has been the team’s leading scorer at 17.0 points per game off the bench, but even he has struggled from beyond the arc (3-for-13).
The Jazz are playing without injured Bojan Bogdanovic, who had 23 points and shot 6-for-10 on 3’s the last time Utah met the Lakers in December. The Jazz had beaten the Lakers in 13 of their last 16 meetings before losing both earlier head-to-heads this season.